SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women’s basketball team continued its hot start at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Thursday evening.

The Utes easily defeated the UC-Irvine Anteaters, 58-42, and improved to 9-1 on the season.

“As we get closer to conference, it gets easier to have your players’ attention,” head coach Anthony Levrets said. Our kids are excited about Christmas and the break, as we all are, but they have taken a very good approach about getting themselves better each day and each week.”

The game started out back-and-forth as Utah pulled ahead with a quick 10-0 lead just two minutes in but allowed the Anteaters to close the gap to just three points with 6:08 remaining in the first half.

The Utes held UC-Irvine (3-8) to just 20 points in the first 20 minutes, and established a 12-point lead, 32-20, that they took into halftime and carried throughout the remainder of the game.

Taryn Wicijowski took over early on, scoring 11 of her 16 points in the first half. Overall, the junior forward shot 60.0 percent from the floor and grabbed seven rebounds, one block and had an assist.

Junior forward Michelle Plouffe also reached double digits, scoring 15 and contributing 8 rebounds, three assists and a block.

The biggest night on the boards belonged to 5-foot-9 Iwalani Rodrigues. The senior guard grabbed 15 rebounds, 14 of them on the defensive end, along with her seven points, three assists and two blocks.

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On the defensive end, Utah held the Anteaters’ leading scorer, Jennifer Tsurumoto, scoreless and to just two assists and three steals throughout the game. Instead, UC-Irvine was led by the scoring of Anete Klintsone, who had eight points with two 3-pointers.

The Utes will now take an eight-day break for the holidays before returning to action Saturday, Dec. 29, when they will host North Dakota in a 3 p.m. start. The following week, Jan. 4, will tip off Pac-12 play when Utah welcomes California at 6 p.m.

Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.